'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' by Billie Eilish: A Review


Grace Clift and Ruby Thorpe review Billie Eilish's third album, 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT'

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By Grace Clift and Ruby Thorpe

Billie Eilish’s long awaited third album ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’ is finally out, and critics are raving. Understated and detailed, the album tells a tale of obsession and love, and speaks back to relentless online consumption culture. The underwater cover blends well with the ethereal,‘floating’ tone throughout, and the lyrics come from an intensely personal place.

The first half of the album is reviewed by Music Editor Grace Clift and from THE GREATEST, it is reviewed by Deputy Music Editor, Ruby Thorpe.

The opening song, SKINNY, sets the tone for an open-hearted, personal album. The lyrics delve into the horror of being such a famous public figure “When I step off the stage, I'm a bird in a cage, I'm a dog in a dog pound” – and the instrumental outro is beautifully delicate. The understated production and tone made me wary that the album would be low-impact, but instead it is the opposite; Billie and Finneas choose their moments to go big to make every shift in intensity count.

This is the obvious hit, and a reminder that as well as being the vulnerable 20-something Billie Eilish she is in SKINNY, she’s also Billie Eilish, the all-powerful pop icon. The song feels like daytime, upbeat and bright, while still being considered in each choice it makes. Critic Jon Denton notes that the album refuses to go big for the sake of it; ‘this feels like an album for the sake of music, not for the sake of TikTok’.

Reading the lyrics to CHIHIRO feels like reading quotes from a novel – it’s descriptive and emotive. “Wringing my hands in my lap” feels so viscerally relatable, and the anxiety throughout is palpable. It is really a song to listen to with headphones, as the production details are so subtle they could be missed.

This is the catchiest song on the album, and is a refreshing breath of lightheartedness to keep the darker tone distinctive throughout. The song includes what I think is Billie Eilish’s best lyric of all time: 'I want you to stay / Til I'm in the grave / Til I rot away, dead and buried / Til I'm in the casket you carry’. It is pop at its most refined, with the theme of obsessive love bursting out nearer the end.

This is the middle track of the album, and like most middle tracks, it does not feel particularly standout. Nevertheless, it opens up to a bigger sound than we have heard previously on the album; the huge swelling music is representative of the mood swings present in the lyrics, and Eilish shows awareness of this – ‘Did I cross the line?’

This track is the climax of the album and demonstrates a turning point of Eilish’s thoughts and a strong realisation of her poor treatment and sexualisation, mirrored through the building of volume and pitch. She then seems to explode with an intense key change and impressive belts. My favourite part of this song is the bridge where she exclaims “I loved you, and I still do” followed by her repeated words of desperation. I think that this song is a turning point for the album as she seems to gain closure on the pain referenced in the first half.

L’AMOUR DE MA VIE, is a hateful love-letter to her previous relationship, listing reasons for why she is glad the relationship has ended but still, seemingly sarcastically, wishing them the best. The song then splits into two with a transition into an 80s and hyperpop style with heavy drums, synths and autotune. This demonstrates Eilish’s two minds about her feelings, knowing that it was a bad situation and being angry at herself for missing it. One thing I do find funny is that there is no French in the song despite the title, however, with Eilish’s later reflection, it is linked very cleverly.

THE DINER is my favourite song on the album, I think it links perfectly with LUNCH through the continued stalker narrative and ideas of obsession; this is seen directly with the line ‘I came in looking for something to eat’. These two songs refer to the feeling of craving for a person, but in the situation of this song it becomes deluded. My guess is that this song is from the point of view of someone in Eilish’s life, and the fact the person whispers their phone number at the end demonstrates their delusion further.

This song has a perfect link with BLUE as its main motif can be seen in BITTERSUITE’s outro, creating a seamless link. Rather than a narrative function, this song brings back all previous themes from the other songs, with french references to L’AMOUR DE MA VIE, the same syncopated rhythms as THE DINER and LUNCH are brought back around two minutes in, and the phrase ‘open up the door’ is used which links back to CHIHIRO. This song is brilliant in tying all the themes together and paired with BLUE, it finishes the album exquisitely.

As with BITTERSUITE, this song is full of internal references to bring the album to a close. Starting with a floating theme, it returns to the opening track and reflects the album cover exactly. There are similar references by quoting ‘BIRDS OF A FEATHER’ and more subtly with the melody used in the climax of THE GREATEST being repeated instrumentally as an outro. This suggests the same feelings of ‘I loved you’ are still present at the end of the album. Similarly, the closing line asks ‘but when can I hear the next one?’, referring to the overconsumption and demand within the music industry, whilst also leaving the album on a cliffhanger. This was a perfect way to create a cyclical structure for the album.

Overall, this album was well worth the wait as Billie Eilish is more open and vulnerable than before, exploring themes of obsession, sexuality, love, and her relationship with her fans and social media. After many re-listens, this album is much more nuanced than I first thought with many overlapping and returning ideas with both melodic and lyrical links; this is especially impressive as there are only 10 tracks on the album. I think the way Eilish articulates her emotions and the vulnerability she shows on this album is admirable and demonstrates a turning point in her music as she moves away from her teenage years and gains experience as an artist.